RWIs at Your Pool

RWI = recreational water illness

A fun topic, I know. But there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with this at least once at your pool this summer. RWIs include a variety of infections including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, and wound, but the most common RWI for pools is diarrhea.

The CDC has some good materials about how chlorine works to kill germs, but the important points to know are:

  • Chlorine doesn’t kill germs immediately.
  • Some germs (like Cryptosporidium, which causes diarrhea) can live in chlorinated pools for days.
  • The more contaminants in the water (like pee) the more diluted the germ-killing ability of chlorine.
  • When dirt and sweat rinse off our bodies in the water, the chemicals break down these things rather than kill the germs.
  • If you smell “chlorine” you’re really smelling the interaction of chlorine with pee, poop, dirt, and/or sweat, not the chlorine itself. If there’s an overpowering chlorine smell, the pool is extra dirty! (Unless you’ve accidentally added way too much chlorine.)

Best practices:

  • Keep pee, poop, sweat, and dirt out of the pool
  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea
  • Shower before entering the water
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water
  • Teach children not to pee or poop in the water
  • Take children for bathroom breaks regularly
  • Change diapers in a designated diaper-changing area (i.e., not poolside)
  • Don’t swallow the water
  • Teach children not to swallow the water

Admittedly, it’s not a glamorous (or interesting) topic, but better safe than sorry

🤢 Spend some time educating yourself and your members about RWIs and you’ll all be happier in the end.


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